Citrus County Courthouse -- GAL

County commissioners said the criticism they've received over the New York Times digital-subscrption issue is unfair.

Faced with what is now a national audience of interest, Citrus County commissioners on Tuesday gave no hint of backing down on their decision to block the library system from a New York Times digital subscription.

Instead, commissioners turned the criticism they’ve received back at those dishing it, including citizens attending the board meeting who booed when a Citrus Springs woman said she supported the board’s decision.

Commissioner Ron Kitchen Jr. said the county is right to block the digital Times subscription. While he did not echo fellow Commissioner Scott Carnahan’s description of the Times as “fake news,” Kitchen said the decision is in line with his political beliefs.

“Guess what we’re attacked for: Some of us support the president of the United States,” he said. “I’m not backing off one inch.”

Commissioners met for the first time since Oct. 24, when a seemingly innocuous item on the agenda — board approval on a three-year digital subscription of the New York Times for county libraries — ran into immediate trouble.

After Kitchen questioned spending $2,700 a year for a New York Times subscription, Carnahan jumped in saying he supported President Trump’s assertion that the Times is “fake news.”

“I don’t want the New York Times in this county,” Carnahan said then.

Other commissioners agreed and the matter was dropped.

Residents, though, had many thoughts on the matter. The Chronicle was flooded with emails, online comments, letters to the editor and Sound Off calls.

Then Tuesday morning, The Washington Post picked up the story, other major news organizations followed throughout the day, and Twitter jumped with comments.

Nine showed up at Tuesday’s board meeting, and all but one were critical. Here’s a sampling:

-- Joann Henderson, Inverness, a retired teacher, regarding the subscription contract: “All you have to do is sign it. So, sign it, This isn’t the first time I’ve told young scalawags to stop talking and do your job!”

-- Kit Plourde, Hernando: “You’re elected to serve all of us, whether we’re Republicans or Democrats. Libraries are sacred. They’re to serve everyone.”

-- Renee Reich, Inverness, after watching video of the board’s Oct. 24 discussion: “It was, to say the least, appalling. Access to information is the heart of the library.”

Janet Barek, president of the Citrus Springs Civic Association and a frequent county commission attendee, sided with commissioners.

“The news in there is not news,” she said to a chorus of boos. “It is going into opinion.”

Kitchen took exception to that reaction and also when several audience members got up to leave after public comment concluded, which is when commissioners offer comments on what was said.

“You booed her down like an angry mob,” he said. “Shame on you!”

Carnahan offered no opinion of the newspaper but said he believes Citrus is firmly behind the board.

“We were elected unanimously in this county by conservative Republicans,” he said.

Commissioners Brian Coleman and Chairman Jeff Kinnard both said some of the public response, especially in the last day or two, has been unfair.

“I’ve got emails that just said ‘F.U.’” Coleman said.

Coleman and others also noted the matter will be coming back for discussion and possibly a vote at the Nov. 19 organizational meeting during which, coincidentally, Coleman is expected to be named chairman.

 

 

Contact Chronicle reporter Mike Wright at 352-563-3228 or mwright@chronicleonline.com.

(22) comments

Markf5FF

New York Times is not what it once was, a fair middle of the road newspaper, now they are constantly having to defend why this was published when its found to be totally false.

jpiraux

The issue with the Go Fund Me pages is the fact that the people donating are willing to donate to the county to let the libraries buy a digital subscription is in itself ironic because the people could just buy their own subscriptions if they really wanted it that bad.

Ssabmud

What I find interesting is the fact that there are still a goodly number of real Republicans left in Citrus County. Real Republicans who care more about the country and 'we the people' then they do Trump. Our country worked pretty good when the Republicans and the Democrats used to sit down, talk things out and figure out a way to make it all work. A time before Trump moved in and declared, my way or the highway, America. The country needs two sides to keep everything working smoothly and to keep each other in check for the good of the country. The current Citrus County Commissioners really need to dump Trump and his divisive mantra and get back to being commissioners for all the people. If they can't do that then maybe some real Republicans need to run for the positions of Citrus County Commissioners. I bet they would win.

Miuke Nelson

So I would like to know if those who object to spending taxpayer money have any objection to private funding to pay for the subscription? Please tell me.

Money has been raised to pay for it. Several Go Fund Me pages reached their and exceeded their goals in less than 24 hours. It is my understanding that even with private donated money the BOCC still has to sign the contract. We'll be watching.

BarbaraDrummond

“To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.”

― Theodore Roosevelt

rnwtsar

Once again Citrus County stumbles into the national spotlight of shame. Remember the “muslim-free” gun store owner? Now the heads of local government take their turn. Anyone else want to make Inverness look like a town of intolerant, uneducated hicks? Just get in line.

psmith

"The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them." -- Thomas Jefferson

"The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them." -- Thomas Jefferson

I’m so thankful for a free press and for libraries. We must’ve vigilant in protecting both!

LizBurda

Free press does not mean other people pay for your reading material, it means the press is free to publish. Citrus County is not keeping anyone from reading the NYT, nor is the NYT being stripped of it's freedom. Making "others" pay (via taxes) for your entertainment is not "freedom of the press". Personal subscriptions to the NYT are not that expensive, if you want to read it, ante up, pay for it yourself!

Miuke Nelson

I agree that this is not a free press as you define it, nor is about paying for it with taxpayer dollars. The issue is a political group trying to limit access to information they don't like. That is Orwellian at best, Communist/Fascist at worst.

Carnahan in saying he supported President Trump’s assertion that the Times is “fake news.” “I don’t want the New York Times in this county,” crossed the line. This is clearly not a fiscal issue to him, it is abuse of power. Kitchens is not much better. While he did not outright call it fake news, he did state that the decision is in line with his political beliefs and that he is supporting the president. So what does that tell you? More abuse of authority.

So shortly, we will see. Plenty of money has been raised from private donors. The BOCC still has to accept the donations and approve the subscription. What will they do? Maybe we'll see a need to get more qualified candidates on the ballot.

sunlovesmike

I was very insulted when Kitchens declared he would not apologize for being a white man. I didn't realize this was a racial issue. I am saddened the Chronicle did not report on his statement.

Msfahrenheit

I find that to be an interesting statement as week. I didn't realize anyone was asking him too. Maybe a conscience?

MikeBond

Considering that conservatism is a mathematical lie their decision doesn't surprise me. After all, they all support the Tollway to Nowhere.

Littled

Carnahan displaying lack of intelligence: "“We were elected unanimously in this county by conservative Republicans,” - does he even understand what unanimously means?

I propose a campaign to promote a boycott of Florida. There are too many right-leaning people to make an impact if it is just a county boycott. The governor needs to understand what is happening (lack of representation) in our county.

MichaelRicard

Time to vote them out. When personal political views of the members on the BOCC determine the peoples view, it is time for change.

Miuke Nelson

My suggestion is for the Commissioners look to what just happened to republicans in Kentucky and Virginia. I have a question though. If a private someone were to pay for that subscription would the Commission have any say in allowing it in the libraries? GoFundMe anyone?

sunlovesmike

I have heard there are several GoFundMe accounts. Its not a money matter, they have the funds in the budget already, its them thinking books and newspapers should be banned if they contain anything they do not approve up. I'm sure none of them are well read enough to have read Fahrenheit 451. This is exactly what the author was warning us against: In the society of Fahrenheit 451, which is based on censorship of ideas and control of people’s thoughts with entertainment, there is no greater danger to the status quo than a citizen who is curious to learn about the world.

MarianneMolleur

Congratulations to the Chronicle for national exposure and recognition. Local reporting matters.

booevegeo

Sounds to me like Carnahan is only representing conservative Republicans and not all Citrus residents. It would only cost 0.11 cents for each of the 70,000 library card holders. Yet they spend how many thousands of dollars fighting an annexation in Inverness? And who does Kitchen think he is to talk down to the people who booed. He doesn't even pay any property taxes in Citrus County.

rmcconnell

Everyone is entitled to an opinion. The “boo-ing” is immature and should be brought to light as such. This division needs to end.

WILLIAMMULLER

Correct

booevegeo

I agree that there shouldn't be booing, but that goes for both sides of the argument. Kitchen usually talks to people in a very condescending way.

sunlovesmike

hard to end division when Kitchens makes such a strong racial statement as declaring he will not apologize for being a white man. That opens up a whole new kettle of fish.

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